For the last few days, I've been doing some digging into the online privacy issues that came to light (or at least came into more focus) when Google announced it was bowing to public pressure and cutting the length of time for which it retains identifying information on its users in half.
First, there are a handful of organizations that appear to be taking advantage of the growing apprehension users have about the vulnerability of their information online. There are non-profit groups like the Tor project, businesses like Anonymizer, or even companies like TrilightZone that promise to hide your Internet activities from ISP logs, or even from authorities. Hal Roberts, from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, told me last week that using such services doesn't really solve the problem. It just transfers the risk from an Internet service provider like Google to the third-party service. In Roberts' words, "If you don't trust Google, why should you trust [the third party service]?"
So what should business users do? That's where groups like the Online Privacy Alliance and the Center for Democracy and Technology come in. Though schedule conflicts prevented OPA representatives from speaking with IT Business Edge, the organization's Web site provides links to several resources that may be helpful. Similarly, the CDT offers thorough online privacy guidelines.